User Group Leadership Taskings and Meeting Locations

Marcia McLean from the Cape Cod .NET User Group left a couple of great comments for me today. First, thanks Marcia for pointing out two things that I should have further discussed in my User Group series.

Meeting Locations
Marcia’s first comment was about the difficulties in finding adequate locations to hold events. We here in Edmonton have been very luck to get sponsorship of the facilities we require from the Edmonton Public Library. She makes a valid point that some places, such as Cape Cod, might not have the facilities readily available to them. One of the things that I want to point out is that the number of requirements for a meeting location is quite small. In my mind you need only the following

The first thing that you will say I omitted from that list that is a requirement is a projector. It is a requirement for the meeting, but it is not a requirement of your meeting location. It’s a lot easier to find a location that will work for you if you don’t make that facility responsible for providing the projector too. Edmug is currently holding it’s meetings at the public library which provides absolutely no hardware (not even an extension cord). Our hardware is being sourced from other locations, including a sponsor who provides the projector at no cost. Again, this might not be possible for all user groups, but we’ve found that trying to bring in little bits of the event puzzle from many different places has made it much easier to create a close to ideal event.

Leadership Taskings
Marcia’s second comment was a request to know how we at Edmug divvied up the work needed to keep the group running. One of the very first things that we did was download the INETA white paper on Starting and Running a User Group. From that document we decided to use the suggested leadership structure of President, Vice-President, Membership Director, Program Director and Treasurer. As I outlined in my Running with the Right Crowd post, one of our goals was to ensure that the leadership did not get burned out or become disinterested in the operation of the group. The division of tasks were never discussed at length. Most of the people in our leadership group stepped up to the plate and offered to take on the tasks that best fit with their role. As it stands now, here’s a rough guide of what the person in each role is responsible for.

Arguably, this is one of the most difficult, and important, roles in the leadership group. Because of this we have kept the tasks that this role is responsible for to a minimum. The treasurer is responsible for finding, coordinating with and maintaining relationships with our cash and venue sponsors. As part of their work with new sponsors, it’s the treasurers job to gather items such as pamphlets, business cards, electronic logos, etc. from the sponsors and hand them over to the group for inclusion on our website and event hand out materials.

Membership Director
The main area of responsibility in this role is making and maintaining contact with the attendees at our events. This includes the management of our membership list, the creation and distribution of monthly newsletters and the gathering of the feedback forms filled out during our meetings. The Membership Director also is responsible for ensuring that there is a table just outside our meeting room to hold the handouts and any free products we have to give away. They also man this table to ensure that all attendees are greeted and receive the appropriate handouts and feedback forms as they arrive. Because our Membership Director works very close to the meeting location, he has also taken on the responsibility of ordering, paying and setup of the catering we receive from the local coffee shop. An additional task that has fallen into the Membership Director’s purview is the hardware requirements of the meeting. The primary reason for this has been that his employer is providing us with the projector we use during our meetings.

Program Director
The primary focus of our Program Director is to liaise with prospective and confirmed speakers. The person filling this role is also responsible for anything related to the speaker on the day of the event. In addition to performing this role, our Program Director has made Edmonton Code Camp his baby and is heading up that initiative with support from the rest of our user group leadership.

This role has the least amount of formal task assignments in our leadership. The primary purpose of this role is to fill in for the President if they can’t make a meeting or, as happened to us, the President decides that they must no longer be involved. In an effort to make as much use of this person as possible, they have been stuck with some of the more menial tasks. Right now the VP is responsible for the all important donut order on meeting nights. We’ve also started to get him to manage some of our new initiatives (watch for the Edmug Evangelist program!). Overall this roll has a “help out where required” task assigned to it.

My primary role as the president is to coordinate the other leaders. Because we have segmented the roles and responsibilities in the way we have, it is very important that someone works to ensure that the reliances and overlaps between different roles are managed efficiently. An example of this is the reliance of our Program Director on having monies available, from our Treasurer, for bringing in speakers. In this case it’s my role to ensure that the Program Director knows in advance how much money is available for him to use on speakers. Another task that has been assigned to the President is the creation of the handouts and pre-meeting scrolling PowerPoint slide show. The President is also tasked with attracting and working with swag sponsors and collecting and transporting swag to the events. Like the VP, the President has a huge roll as an extra set of hands for helping to get things done. This will include the standard helping with event setup tasks as well as helping grease the wheels of the INTEA/MSDN Canada machines.

I hope that this better explains the roles that we are performing and how the operational tasks are distributed amongst the people that are helping to run the group.